In the age of increasing anti-choice harassment at reproductive health clinics, is the FACE act clinic buffer law really enough to allow women access to health care?
Not according to reproductive rights advocates in Westchester County, New York. Citing the special problems that clinics in suburban areas have, such as long driveways, parking lots far from clinic entrances and other logistical issues surrounding spread out facilities, they are proposing a bill that would change the standard buffer zone to a much larger one that can actually protect women from harassment and intimidation.
U.S. Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who is leading the charge for a new, 25-foot buffer zone, calls the expansion necessary in the face of so much effort to restrict a woman’s access to abortion and contraception. “It’s embarrassing to me that in 2012 we are actually debating whether women should have access to a variety of safe legal health services,” said Lowey in a press conference regarding the bill.
How would the new bill differ from what is currently on the books? According to the Journal News:
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The legislation would create a 25-foot buffer around the reproductive health facility, including driveways and parking lots, where threatening behavior would be illegal. And, unlike in state law, under the Westchester bill a prosecutor wouldn’t have to prove that a protestor intended to deny access to a health facility, legislators said. Violations would be misdemeanors and clinic workers or patients could also sue civilly.
Unfortunately, even if the bill does pass, it appears unlikely to become law. The County Executive, an anti-choice Republican, hasn’t threatened an outright veto, but has said he finds additional regulation unnecessary for the protection of women trying to access a health clinic without running a gauntlet of intrusive anti-choicers.